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NBC's Holt to Steele: 'Do You Want To Be In a Position of Taking Something Away?'

NBC's Lester Holt, substitute hosting for Matt Lauer on Tuesday's Today show, questioned Michael Steele about the GOP taking a risk in its opposition to Obamacare as he explained a lot Americans have looked at the bill and found things they liked and pressed the RNC chairman: "Do you want to be in a position of taking something away?" For his part Steele fired back: "I disagree with your premise that a lot of Americans have now taken a look at the bill. Taken a look at what bill? They're still writing the thing." [audio available here]

LESTER HOLT: The fact of the matter is while Americans are divided on this, a lot of them have now looked at the paper, looked at some of the things in the bill and said, "Hey that applies to my situation, I'll take it." By now trying to repeal it, are Republicans in the position of trying to take something away and isn't it a lot harder than opposing a bill in the first place?

MICHAEL STEELE: First of all, I disagree with your, your premise that a lot of Americans have now taken a look at the bill. Taken a look at what bill? They're still writing the thing. So there is nothing to take a look at. We've been told about provisions, largely watered-down provisions, with respect to portability and, and the like. The, the details of those, of those provisions have not been vetted out yet. As you know, this is a shell of a bill that will be written largely through regula-, through a regulatory process that is of great concern as well.

HOLT: But do you want to be in a position of taking something away? For those who find something they do like?

STEELE: Well no look, look. It's, you know, you can set up this straw dog argument, which I know the left is starting to do that says, "Oh there's all this great stuff that Republicans wanted in this bill and they want to repeal the bill? They're taking something away from you."

Holt was also bothered by a "Fire Nancy Pelosi" campaign on the RNC's Web site and challenged Steele: "Does this do anything to, to increase the civil dialogue on Capitol Hill?"

The following is the full interview with Steele as it was aired on the March 23 Today show:

LESTER HOLT: Now for the perspective from the other side, Michael Steele is the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Mr. Steele, good morning to you.

[On screen headline: "Signing Day, Is Obama Ignoring The Will Of The People?"

MICHAEL STEELE: Good morning.

HOLT: Thanks for joining us. Let me pick right up on this movement to repeal the bill. What parts of the health care bill would you like to repeal and why?

MICHAEL STEELE: I think overall, most Americans would like to see the whole thing undone at this point and start it over with - as they said throughout the at least the last couple of months - with a bill that's more bottom-up, patient-doctor centered. So we're looking for our legislative leadership to take that first step and approach on that. But I think overall, the general mood is, you know, the bottom line on this bill is too expensive, it creates too much of a tax burden on small businesses. It, you know, certainly has, it's a definite impact on Medicare. And so these things are going to be looked at almost immediately by the Republican leadership.

HOLT: That's a bigger picture view. The fact of the matter is while Americans are divided on this, a lot of them have now looked at the paper, looked at some of the things in the bill and said, "Hey that applies to my situation, I'll take it." By now trying to repeal it, are Republicans in the position of trying to take something away and isn't it a lot harder than opposing a bill in the first place?

STEELE: First of all, I disagree with your, your premise that a lot of Americans have now taken a look at the bill. Taken a look at what bill? They're still writing the thing. So there is nothing to take a look at. We've been told about provisions, largely watered-down provisions, with respect to portability and, and the like. The, the details of those, of those provisions have not been vetted out yet. As you know, this is a shell of a bill that will be written largely through regula-, through a regulatory process that is of great concern as well.

HOLT: But do you want to be in a position of taking something away? For those who find something they do like?

STEELE: Well no look, look. It's, you know, you can set up this straw dog argument, which I know the left is starting to do that says, "Oh there's all this great stuff that Republicans wanted in this bill and they want to repeal the bill? They're taking something away from you."

HOLT: Let's talk about what Republicans hope to gain from this, certainly looking down towards November. If I click on to your Web site this morning, I see an image of Nancy Pelosi surrounded by flames. "Fire Nancy Pelosi!" You've raised about $800,000 according to what's on that Web site right now.

STEELE: That's right.

HOLT: Why target her?

STEELE: Because-

HOLT: Why is she the villain when it, when it was the President that really came out and said this is going to be a priority? And does this do anything to, to increase the civil dialogue on Capitol Hill?

STEELE: Well, the President, the President. I find it amusing now that everybody's all of a sudden now this thing has passed, is interested in civil dialogue. I mean the reality of it is, no one paid attention to the American people for the past year. And the American people have been to the point of outrage on this issue. But having said that, I think, you know, the President took his legislative, his key legislative agenda item and gave it to Nancy Pelosi to run, so this is, in effect, her, her bill. She crafted it, this is what she wanted, she's the one who pulled this out of the fire for the President after the Scott Brown election, not the White House. So Nancy Pelosi owns this, as much as anyone else. And I think that the fact, that the way she's run the house, the way that a lot of the Republican leadership was not a part in crafting this bill in the House, and certainly working with the Senate leadership trying to get some things done, very difficult. She I think more than most has a greater hand in what we saw passed the other night than anyone else. And at the, the bottom line is, if, if you want to try to undo a lot of the damage that's being done or being planned to be done in this bill, Nancy Pelosi's got to get fired. And I've asked, I've called for that the first night this thing was signed. And I've asked folks to go to FireNancyPelosi.com and help me do it.

HOLT: Alright, we're gonna have to end there but RNC chairman Michael Steele we really thank you for your time. It was good to talk to you.

STEELE: You got it, Lester. Alrighty.

-Geoffrey Dickens is the senior news analyst at the Media Research Center.